Men’s lacrosse confident, looking to compete in tough America East

Coming off a season which featured the toughest opposing schedule in school history, the UVM men’s lacrosse team is looking to use those experiences to make a run at the elusive America East title.

Following a 5-11 record in 2008, the Catamounts enter the 2009 season picked fifth in the America East preseason poll, a position they will look to improve on as the season progresses.

So far this season, the team is already 2-0 after having beaten Dartmouth in their home opener, 11-9, yesterday.

The team will undoubtedly look for its offensive firepower to come from last season’s team MVP, sophomore attack Derek Lichtfuss. Lichtfuss burst onto the collegiate lacrosse scene in 2008 with a team-leading 29 points, with 21 goals and eight assists.

“Derek certainly had a huge impact for us last year, giving us a major presence in the offensive end,” head coach Ryan Curtis said. “I think a lot more teams will focus on him as a result, but he does continue to get better and improve on other aspects of his game.”

Entering the season with a relatively young team – the Catamounts feature 12 freshmen on their roster this season – Vermont may not expect any of their players to have a season as outstanding as Lichtfuss’ 2008 campaign, but Curtis is optimistic that the newcomers will be effective as collective contributors.

“The attention [Lichtfuss] gets should also open up some opportunities for other guys,” Curtis said. “We will see a lot of freshmen playing roles defensively but have one or two who will have a big role on offense – I think it would be tough to have the same type of year as a freshman that Derek had, though.”

The defensive attention placed on Lichtfuss is already providing other opportunities for the team’s role plyers. Senior Andrew Kelleher scored a career high five goals in yesterday’s win and already has nine on the season.

Despite the pressure, Lichtfuss still tallied three goals for the Cats.

As for team leadership, Curtis will look to his three senior captains – midfielder Brandon Goodwyn, attack Alex Young and defenseman Michael Watson – to guide the squad through a tough 2009 schedule that once again features national powerhouses like Virginia and Notre Dame.

“Our three captains are all impact players for us and great leaders-they play hard and set a good example for the younger guys on the team,” Curtis said. “Off the field they have gone a long way in helping us develop a positive and competitive team culture, and I think all three of them will have big years for us.”

With those factors in mind, the third-year coach is convinced that his team has what it takes to contend in a competitive America East conference.

“The America East will be very competitive once again this year and every game will be a battle,” Curtis said. “That being said, I think we have reached a point where we should be making the playoffs and once there, competing to win.”